Charter school makes its pitch to state agency
by Lindsay Field
August 21, 2012 12:31 AM | 2735 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ATLANTA — Smyrna Academy of Excellence, a south Cobb charter school whose five-year start-up petition was turned down by the Cobb County School Board in late June, presented their case to the Georgia Charter Schools Division on Monday.

The school announced on July 2 that they would be applying for a charter petition through the state after school board chairman Jimmy Arispe originally said they would seek to open a private school.

LeAnn Boucher, a parent and volunteer with the school, said 11 representatives from SAE participated in the presentation Monday.

“It ended up being a great dialogue with the committee asking some well thought-out questions that showed the quality time they’d spent reviewing the charter request,” she said.

In total, the meeting lasted about two hours, and she said the SAE team left the meeting “energized and cautiously optimistic.”

“It was heartening to engage in a real conversation around the school we’re building in south Cobb County,” she said. “It remains community-driven, and we hope our message, and our goal of 100 percent student graduation resonated with the committee.”

Lou Erste, the state’s director of the Charter Schools Division, said the Smyrna Academy of Excellence is one of 18 applications they’ve received in 2012 and one of seven schools seeking approval from the state to open next fall.

Erste said the school interviewed before a panel of seven members which included Linda Dunn, state policy analyst for waivers; Carmen Freemire, state policy analyst for Senate Bill 10; Jennie Wilson and Morgan Felts, staff attorneys with the Charter Schools Division; Tabitha Press, state strategic development coordinator; Melanie Stockwell, deputy commissioner-general counsel with the Georgia Department of Labor; and Stacey Suber-Drake, general counsel with the Office of School Improvement.

The group is composed of some of the 25 people the state pulls from to conduct the interviews for state petitions.

Erste said a recommendation for approval or denial should be ready to present to the State Board of Education on Oct. 4 and they should make their decision based on the recommendation at their Nov. 15 meeting.

He also said the petition Smyrna Academy of Excellence submitted was not newly written, but instead contained the same information that the Cobb school board denied, along with some additional information to show the school’s “capacity to operate with a different budget and the responsibilities of a Local Education Agency or school district.”

Additionally, the state board will be taking into consideration the denial letter from Cobb during their review of the state charter petition.

“That denial letter is included as an attachment to the recommendation we make to the State Board,” he said. “The petitioner’s response to the local board’s stated reasons for denial is also considered by the State Board.”
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